Secondment reflections

So this blogs jumps ahead a little, I wrote this in early spring 2019 and it was one of those blogs that I needed to think on a while before publishing…#INFJ

I spent June to November of 2018 on a secondment to Cardiology as a Matron at RBCH. The post came at a time when I needed a different challenge, and it was an ideal opportunity for me to try something new but still keep in touch with the IPC team.

I’d been at the Trust since 2014 and I’d seen the Matron post as a possible next career move for me. The post would still use my current knowledge but stretch me that little bit further. I knew from the outset that this would be a challenge and that it’s success would depend as much upon my skills and experience as it would on who I was as a person. I hoped I had what it took.

Becoming a Matron meant that I joined a care group with 5 other Matrons (Reeds Rebels) all of us reporting to one head of nursing and our own directorates managers. At the same time as the post started I was lucky enough to gain a place on a leadership programme with managers from RBCH plus our neighbouring hospital, Poole. So with influences from my fellow Matrons, two managers whom I got to work with very closely every day, a whole flock of fantastic consultants and the development programme I started to learn a lot about myself.

First I got to complete an MBTI assessment and a 360 appraisal. These two were enlightening. The MBTI opened up a wide mirror for me, gave answers to many questions I’d had in my adult life and helped me answer them. The feedback I got from my appraisal gave me more again, helping see what I needed to stop doing, do more of and keep doing. This took in feedback from people I worked with in my new post as well as my old post.

The Matron role was huge, to begin with it felt like cresting a rise only to see another hill looming in the distance. It’s more than leading on quality and safety for a directorate, more than leading by example and setting standards (that’s quite big in itself) but no more than I expected. Each day, in the different areas I worked within, there was always something new to understand, a problem to solve or help with. My biggest challenge to begin with was which of the several Directorate, Care Group and Trust level meetings I needed to attend, prepare for or politely decline…not so easy for an INFJ.

I had the benefit of sharing an office with an excellent manager, someone who understood me at a level I’d never had before. I had several strong teams of allied health professionals around me plus consultants who were supportive and easy to talk to. The teams of nurses and therapists on the wards, within the intervention unit and specialist areas were fantastic to work with. I got to learn so much from all of them and make a great many new friends.

This was a dream job…..but it came with pressures.

A normal day with no major incidents usually required me to start early and finish late, I was working extra each day just to keep pace with every day demands. Responding to pressures from acute issues, strategic challenges and ever changing directions was fun, exciting but inevitably tiring.

As an INFJ I needed to spend time reading and working around each problem from many points to solve and even understand them. There really was no time for this so I had to learn to trust my gut response and go with it. Not so easy when it was all new but far easier in the following weeks. As an Introvert, I’m quite happy to be working in large groups but I needed solitude to recharge (running helped). I could keep up with the pressures of the job, but I was not sure for how long or what the impact of working at that level would have on me and my family.

I can see this now, looking back, but at the time I was so deep in enjoying the journey I did not see how much of a toll it was having upon me or even register there might be any issues. This was where family and friendships proved so important, regularly my wife was asking if I was ok, checking I was still enjoying the secondment.

So what happened? Why did I not continue?

At the end of the six months I was interviewed for the substantive post and on that day I could not perform. I could not answer questions with any expansion, I had none of my usual verve to explain my answers or to think wider around each question. I’m sure at one point one of my answers to a question was just….no! The result of too much pressure, most of which was mine and some from the day itself. So, for this and many other reasons, despite my enjoyment this was not going to be the job for me.

So, as I sit under a rare March sun reflecting how do I feel?

Oddly relieved and surprisingly positive. I learnt a great deal about myself and those I work with. I know where my strengths are, I know the areas that I need to develop and I am confident that this was the right move. I know that who you work with is as, if not more, important than the job itself.

I came away from the post with strong friendships and better links than I had before in all areas across the Trust. The greater understanding of the Matron post also gave me an improved approach to my IPC lead nurse role and even more knowledge of the working of the hospital.

I have to end by noting that the Matron post went to one of band 7s I worked with, he and I both went for the secondment role and for other Matron posts too. I couldn’t be happier that he got the post, he’s a great person and someone I personally learnt a lot from.

So, now to the future, I’m about to head off again leaving some fantastic rebellious friends but if the One Dorset plans continue, it won’t be for long.

One thought on “Secondment reflections

  1. Really insightful and brave blog Paul. Secondments are something that I believe we don’t talk about enough. There’s an unwritten rule that ‘you don’t go back after going on secondment’ but that’s not the only reason to go on secondment in the first place. Sometimes it helps you see your choices clearly and hopefully it will have at least taught one more about themselves.
    So pleased you have found the direction of travel for you right now. You’re a great colleague!

    Liked by 1 person

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